Confidence Training for anxious/anxiety aggressive dogs

confidence training for anxious & anxiety aggressive dogs

There are many causes for aggression. One of the most common is fear or anxiety. Anxiety can be caused by one specific thing or it can be a general state of being. In Psychology we call this Generalized anxiety disorder and specific anxiety disorder.  In my opinion anxiety is always a physiological or biologically based event.  There are several theories of anxiety but, the important parts are to determine if the anxiety is caused by an experience, genetics, an illness or a combination of the two.

The fist step in determining if dog anxiety is the cause of aggressive behavior is to have your dog thoroughly check out by a veterinarian.

Motley recommends, Boulder Valley Humane Society, or if you are in Lafayette, CO  go to Jasper Animal Hospital

I can not emphasize how important it is to determine if a  medical condition is responsible for your dogs behavior. If there is a medical cause no amount of training in the universe will correct the problem. It the problem is a genetic problem this is also true. The best solution in these cases is often a combination of drugs and training. This will at least decrease the severity and sometime the frequency of your dogs anxiety.

A word on psychotropic medications. I am neither for not against these medications. What in the !)(() *#$ does that mean !!!! well, there are situations where well prescribed and managed medications are the right course of action. In some cases temporally using medication to assist dog behavior modification is also the best route.  In other cases, medication may not be the best course of action yet it is prescribed. Drugs alone will not cut it. Drugs, if determined to be the best solutions should be used in combination with behavior modification and therapy. Every case is different and you need to consult with at least two veterinarians to make sure meds are the right choice.

The second step is to watch the dogs behavior around people and other dogs in a number of environments. Do you find that there is one situation that “sets your dog off”? Maybe there are two or three. Find these situations and be aware of how the dog progresses from sweet puppy to aggressive hound. Let Mot and I know about this progression and under what circumstances they occur.

Another important diagnostic tool Motley and I use is to have you let others walk your dog, interact with your dog and take your dog into these situations. It is important that you are not there. Trust me. Let Motley know how your dog does with others. Maybe you take your dog to doggie day care? you have a dog walker? How do they do with your dog. Let us know.

Once we have this information we can design a special set of dog training exercises and activities to lessen your dogs anxiety. This takes time, consistency and commitment.  This is not TV, it is reality and in reality your dog’s behavior will improve over time.  The amount of time depends on your dedication and how often you work together.

An important note: if the trainer suggests that you are part of the problem don’t take it personally. Dogs know how we really feel, even if we try to hide it.. and they know before we do in many cases. So if you are scared or nervous your dog will pick up on that. It has to be addressed. You can not, I repeat can not change your dogs behavior with out changing your own.  There is a method of teaching a dog how to behave differently in response to your anxiety but, it is very difficult and not always lasting.  You need to see your dog as a mirror of what you are feeling. Yep, dogs are just that damn smart.

It is also important to get professional help. It the techniques are used in correctly you can make the problem worse. Also, these exercises can be risky.  A frightened dog will bite. It may bite you or anyone else that it can reach. This is not a situation you want to face alone. If we are not right for you. Please find a qualified trainer to help. Just a hint, someone with a certificate in dog training is not likely to have the education or experience. The important thing is to get your dog help. Living in fear sucks.

See also Dog Anxiety 101                    Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Till next time


Motley $ Jeau